The Ghosts of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland

The Ghost of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard Cemetery in Edinburgh

Told on November 4th, 2011

My best friend’s boyfriend studied abroad in the U.K. last year and he visited my best friend at her school, University of Edinburgh in Scotland.  I asked him if he could possibly tell me any ghost stories from his time in the U.K. He told me that he had a perfect story about a cemetery that he went into while visiting his girlfriend in Edinburgh. I have been a best friend of the girl since 9th grade and I have known her boyfriend for a few years. Here’s the story:

R.Y.: “When I was studying abroad in London, I visited my girlfriend who goes to University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I visited The Greyfriar’s Kirkyard Cemetery really late at night with my girlfriend one night. It was like midnight, it was dark and there was no one there. It was supposed to be locked, but the gate was open. We walked around and we were just talking and stuff.  We were in there for like 30 minutes. My girlfriend had taken a tour of the cemetery prior to this visit and she decided to tell me the story of the ghost/ghosts that haunt the cemetery. So, apparently there was a homeless person who was trying to find a place to stay because it was raining, as it always does in the UK. So he went into the cemetery and he decided that he would get into a crypt to get out of the rain. He was on top of a crypt with a dead person in it and then someone came into the cemetery walking his dog in the rain with an umbrella. The dog walker scared the homeless person and the homeless person fell into the crypt and got lost in the bones and it closed on him. It was said that he awakened and disturbed the dead. But what just dead did he awake?

Well some time ago, in like the 1600s, there was a judge, nicknamed ‘Bloody Mackenzie,’ who persecuted the covenanters—Scottish Presbyterians—and he mass burned and crucified them. Then they were buried in masses in this cemetery. He kept them in a field next to the cemetery and murdered some and let others starve to death then they were all thrown into the burial pit. They were all buried together in giant crypts and they were buried without their names on their graves or anything. He was truly an evil person and he would take money from children and kick dogs and what not. Then when the judge died he was buried in the same cemetery with those bodies.

The incident with the homeless person is what disturbed or awakened the burial pit. Apparently, they have to lock up the cemetery at night supposedly because someone was actually injured there one night at the “Black Crypt.”  The “Black Crypt” it the one where the judge was just thrown in with the other people he killed. It is in the corner of the cemetery and it has no ones names or years on it. It was an unidentified crypt.  Sometimes, when tours are held at the cemetery, people will encounter cold spots and when people take photos they see a lot of mystical orbs come out on the printed film. People say that they go into the cemetery and all the sudden there is one spot that is way colder than others. Usually the spots near the “Black Crypt” are way colder than others. Some people also claim that while walking through the cemetery, they feel that they are physically pushed to the side, like someone is angrily passing them. The really creepy part is that when people are on tours, they leave and later they discover that they are covered in scratches and bites.  They don’t feel the scratches happening to them while they are there, but when they get home they will discover small scratches on their arms and body. Apparently, this one time, this one guy was really badly injured, and had cuts scratched all over him. Who caused these scratches and bites? It varies on whom you ask. Some say that it is the judge, known as the ‘Mackenzie Poltergeist’ cutting up people from the grave. And others say that it is all the disturbed and improperly buried dead, having their revenge on the living. Anyways, that’s the story I heard. The versions may vary on who you ask, but almost everyone who visits the cemetery feels some kind of strange omen or deep anguish that occurred there.”

RY’s Interpretation:

“I think there are a lot of ways to interpret the story. I think that the scratches could be from the homeless person that fell into the pit, in that he is trying to claw his way out of the crypt to escape the dead bodies. He is literally clawing his way out and scratching anyone who comes too close to the crypt. Or, it could be that the judge could still be hurting people from his grave because he was so evil. One of the main ideas in the story is that this judge just ruthlessly killed people on no basis other than religious prejudice. So one theory of the poltergeist type ghost or ghosts is that there are many ghosts—the unnamed dead who were wrongfully persecuted and improperly buried. In my opinion there is an obvious moral to the story: wrath and immoral persecution of human beings is wrong and can cause disturbing consequences both here on this Earth and in the afterlife. This legend serves as a way for distancing and understanding a tragic event that has happened and it allows people to remember and reflect on the wrongs of the past.”

My Interpretation of his story:

This story falls into the legends category because while there is documented evidence of Judge Mackenzie’s persecution of the Protestants, he may or may not still haunt the graveyard today. I think that the scratches are coming from ghosts of the improperly buried dead. As we learned in class, when people did not have proper burials, they came back to haunt the living, sometimes until they were given the burial that they wanted. In addition, disturbing the rested dead is often advised against because it is wrong to disturb those who have been put to rest for eternity. I do believe that when the homeless man fell in the crypt he probably angered a lot of spirits. The story is one of warning to those who hear it—it is not a good idea to wake the dead and anger their spirits.